Athenaeum Library Art History Lectures

Art History Lectures

Female Artists From The Renaissance To The 21st Century

Presented by Cornelia Feye


Tuesdays, October 9, 16, 23 & 30, 2018 

All lectures begin at 7:30 PM.


If I speak of Vienna it must be in the past tense, as a man speaks of a woman he has loved and who is dead.

                                                                          —Erich von Stroheim


This four-part lecture series explores the art of female artists through six centuries. The represented artists were not simply chosen because they were women, but because they were accomplished painters, who happened to be women. In contrast to male artists, it has been much more difficult for female artists to successfully exhibit and sell work. They were often overlooked in museum exhibitions until the ground breaking LACMA exhibition Women Artists: 1550-1950 curated by Ann Sutherland Harris and Linda Nochlin in 1976. Female artists have created art for centuries, from ancient Greek sculptures, paintings, poems to medieval illuminated manuscripts. Unfortunately, most of their names were not recorded. Therefore our lectures begin in the Renaissance.


October 9 » 16th and 17th Century: Renaissance to Baroque

With the new emphasis on the individual in the Renaissance, better records were kept about the art produced in Italy and Northern Europe by female artists. The 16th century is the first period when not only names but also biographies and significant quantities of work by female artists exist. Women artists worked in a wide range of styles from intimate portraits to large-scale altarpieces. Among others we will explore the work of Sofonisba Anguissola, and Lavinia Fontana from the Renaissance and Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Leyster, and Rachel Ruysch, from the Baroque.


October 16 » 18th and 19th Century: Roccoco to Impressionism

During the 18th Century three female painters emerged to achieve unprecedented critical and financial success: Angelica Kauffmann, Rosalba Carriera, and Elizabeth Vigée-Lebrun. They came from different countries and backgrounds but they each were exceptionally accomplished, portraits and genre painters. In the 19th century a great number of female artists worked in a wide range of subjects and styles. Among them were Rosa Bonheur, and Eva Gonzales, Berthe Morisot, and Mary Cassatt.


October 23 » Female Artists in the 20th Century until 1950

The 20th century began with an explosion of new discoveries and artistic styles all over Europe. The trauma of World War I prompted the development of art forms from Expressionism, Fauvism, to Cubism, Dadaism, and Surrealism. Women were actively involved in these new approaches to art. This lecture will explore the work of Susanne Valadon, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Gabriele Münter, Emily Carr, Sonia Delaunay, Georgia O’Keeffe, Hilma af Klint, Käthe Kollwitz, Alice Neel, Frida Kahlo, Dorothea Tanning and others.


October 30 » 1950-2017: Mid-century to Present

After World War II the center of modern art shifted from Europe to New York. Abstract Expressionist painters like Helen Frankenthaler, LeeKrasner, Elaine de Kooning, and Grace Hartigan established themselves as equals to their male colleagues. Niki de Saint-Phalle, Bridget Riley, Eva Hesse, Judy Chicago, Miriam Shapiro, Eleanor Antin, Audrey Flack Cindy Sherman, Vija Celmin, Marina Abramovic, and Yayoi Kusama, took their art into unique and different directions. We will also include a few local artists like Jean Lowe.



Cornelia Feye received her M.A. in Art History and Anthropology from the University of Tübingen, Germany. After five years in New York, she moved to San Diego, where she taught Eastern and Western Art History. Her museum experience includes the Mingei International, the San Diego Museum of Arts, the Museum of Man, and the California Center for the Arts in Escondido. From 2007 to 2017 she was the School of the Arts and Arts Education Director at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla. Her first novel, Spring of Tears, an art mystery set in France won the San Diego Book Award for the mystery category in 2011. Her second art mystery, House of the Fox, is set in Anza Borrego desert and San Diego. Her third novel, Private Universe, a coming-of-age story and art mystery, was released in 2017. Publications include art historical essays and reviews in English and German. She is the founder of Konstellation Press, an independent publishing company specializing in genre fiction and poetry at the intersection of art, music and literature.


Joan and Irwin Jacobs Music Room

Athenaeum Music & Arts Library

1008 Wall Street

La Jolla, CA 92037



Series tickets: $48 for members / $68 for nonmembers

Individual tickets: $14 for members / $19 for nonmembers




Online tickets are subject to ticketing fees.